Works in Progress // Andy

Diagnosed with anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder, Andy was growing more and more distant from his wife and daughter. Believing he wasn’t worthy of their love, he turned to meaningless online relationships. When his wife confronted him, he hit rock bottom.

Not wanting to hide his pain anymore, Andy reached out for help. Gaining a deeper understanding and patience within himself, he has a newfound purpose to help others not go through the same mistakes. An honest, authentic man dealing with the demons in his mind, meet Andy.

 

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Name: Andy Wagner

Age: 41

 

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

I have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and borderline personality disorder. I also believe I suffer from PTSD due to my experiences in the Navy, but that’s undiagnosed. I was growing distant from my wife and daughter. I started isolating myself at work. Even though I have a wife and daughter who love me very much, I began looking for meaningless relationships online. I didn’t believe I deserved their love. I didn’t believe I deserved anyone’s love. I was doing my best to shut everyone out.

  

 

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

I call it my bottom. I hit my bottom when my wife confronted me about an online relationship. Of course, I was guilty as sin, but I did my best to make her feel like the bad guy. She refused to budge. She held her ground. I was in the Navy at the time, so I couldn’t just call in sick. I eventually made it in, and my Department Head asked me if I was OK. I said no, I wasn’t. He then asked if I might harm myself and/or others. I knew I just had to say no, fake it a little, and I would be off the hook. He would leave me alone. Instead, I replied, “You know, I’m not sure.” That was the moment I decided to stop lying to myself and others. That short statement was my scream for help. I didn’t want to lie anymore. I didn’t want to hide my pain anymore. I was so tired, both emotionally and physically. I just wanted to be OK.

 

 

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

Communication. Communication is key to coping with the demons in my head. I’ve learned that it’s OK not to be OK. Instead of putting on a brave face, sucking it up, and hiding my struggle, I deal with it in the open. It’s allowed me to discover who I can really rely on in these situations, which is a lot more people than I thought. It amazes me that all of us who struggle with anxiety/depression think we’re alone. We’re not. There are so many others who face the same struggles. Most importantly, I’ve learned that when I’m having a bad day, I reach out instead of internalizing. I’ve found that I have so many friends who understand and share my struggles that I never knew were there before. Just being open about how I feel has been liberating for me.

 

 

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

It has given me a better understanding and a whole lot of patience toward others who fight the same battle I do. It has given me a desire to help people not go through the same things I did. I don’t want others to feel the same pain or suffer the way I did. It’s also brought me closer to my family. Understanding what is going on in my head has led to a lot fewer fights. I’ve been able to acknowledge what I’m thinking and feeling, express it, and therefore deal with it in a healthier manner.

 

 

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

It’s OK to talk to someone. It’s OK to reach out for help. It’s OK not to be OK. You don’t have to be happy all the time. It’s OK to have a bad day. More people understand and share what you’re going through than you realize.

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below to potentially be featured on the blog! 

You Are Enough // How To Combat Comparison

You know the drill. It’s inching towards 1am on a Wednesday night and you can’t get to sleep, so you open up your Instagram and start the scroll. Ah, the endless scroll through unlimited posts. It’s here that our anxiety pops up and thinks, look at all these people having fun, or getting engaged, married, having kids. Why am I not on that same path? Or why don’t I look that beautiful? 

Comparison is a curse. Unforgiving and overflowing with doubt and insecurity, our mental health feeds off of it. Society tells us we have to be on one, certain path. Whether it’s men or women: date, fall in love, get married, have kids and die. 

But, what is that’s not everyone’s path? Does that mean you aren’t succeeding? Absolutely not. Comparing cars, houses, jobs, money, and relationships is destructive to your own growth.

How do we stop this toxic cycle? Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:

 

Stop with the social media 

Comparing starts on social media. While you might have begun your social escape liking photos of puppies or pins, you usually always end up seeing something that triggers comparison.

Whether it’s a friend humble bragging about her new business, engagement, or pregnancy, that ping of jealousy and panic sets in immediately. How is she so successful and I’m not? What is she doing that I can’t? And ultimately:

I’m not good enough. 

When you’re feeling insecure on social media, remember that people normally don’t post about the bad parts of life. On Instagram and Facebook, we are never seeing the whole story. Yes, mental health bloggers tend to open up and show both sides of emotion on social media, but this is not the case with most. So, instead of putting your complete self-worth into the post of someone else’s, remember that you’re only seeing the most polished pieces.

Someone’s success is not your failure

Don’t play that comparison game. Not everyone’s path looks the same, so it’s essential to remember that your friend from high school getting engaged, or your sister getting that promotion does not mean your opportunity or future success has been taken away – your time will come. 

Whenever I feel comparison brewing, I refer to this wonderful quote:

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Your day will still come around, so instead of giving into those feelings of jealousy and spite, feel happy for them.

 

Compare yourself to yourself 

Instead of comparing yourself to others, create the habit of comparing yourself to yourself. Focus on how much you’ve grown, what you have achieved and what progress you have made towards your goals.

When we shift our attention within, it creates gratitude, appreciation, and kindness towards yourself. Give yourself some props – what you’ve gone through matters.

Remind yourself of what you have 

With endless vacation photos to Thailand, and perfectly Pinterest wedding photography, it can start to seem like everyone is doing something with their lives but you.

I’ve found the best way to combat comparison is to take a moment and write down have you do have. What you’re proud of accomplishing. Use your energy to focus on what you’ve built for your own life, it will force that comparing to fade.

 

At the end of the day, we don’t need to be accepted by others – we must accept ourselves. 

The only way to climb out of the hole of comparison is to direct our attention within. When we are happy with our own accomplishments, those feelings of comparison won’t emerge.

So, it’s like the band Jimmy Eat World says,

“Live right now, just be yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else.”

 

 

 

How do you combat comparison? Share your comments below! 

Works in Progress // Connor

Suffering silently through his depression, it was when a teacher noticed his pain that he decided it was time to ask for help. 

With a firm belief in making your mess your message, Connor is on a mission to show others the hidden blessings in a life with mental illness. 

Meet Connor. 

 

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Name: Connor

Age: 22

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

I first realized my mental health was more than just a teenage phase after experiencing two grueling years of a severely deflated state. I initially thought it was all down to the transition period of school to college because it made me feel like a small fish in a big pond and I lost contact with many school friends. The people I did still talk to didn’t share the same thoughts and feelings as me, so I resorted to Google and discovered countless articles about depression, anxiety etc, but I was in disbelief.

I didn’t want to accept that this was what was wrong with me because I’d seen depressed people in TV shows and films, but I wasn’t like them. I brushed it all off but over time my situation got worse. I began skipping lessons to avoid being around people and this quickly turned into skipping entire days of college so I could stay at home where it was safe, easy and comfortable. I could play games and escape the world and even myself. My social life was non-existent, horrendous diet, no motivation for anything and a constant feeling of self loathing and sorrow.

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

The first person to actually notice something wasn’t quite right with me was my product design teacher. She had obviously noticed my lack of attendance in the lessons and my coursework was barely scrapping the barrels. I was asked to stay behind one lesson to have a quick chat, which instantly sent me into a state of panic. After a while of listening to me explain and justify myself she said, “Have you ever thought that you were depressed?”

In an instant, it dawned on me that maybe I actually was depressed. I was recommended to see a counsellor on site at college and I did because I was starting to worry about my exam results and how they would affect my future. After a couple of weeks of this counsellor I got a sudden urge to help myself further and receive help from my local doctor too.

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

Currently, I am in a far better place than I have been for the six years of my battle. My journey has made me realize how strong I actually am and despite mental health knocking me down, I’m always able to get back up; even if it takes me weeks or months to recover from a set-back. My OCD in particular is still as persistent as before, but I’m now able to keep on top of the emotional aftermath and not let things spiral out of control as often. I now think of my problems as challenges that are there to test me and make me grow, which really makes the whole situation less daunting because the only outcomes from these challenges is that I either win or I learn.

Whenever I get these negative thoughts or emotions, I try and use them to my advantage by using the energy as fuel and converting it into something positive which then often times allows me to push further, due to the added incentive/reason. The main skills I’ve been able to learn from all this is being mindful, which in my opinion really has been a game changer and has given me moments of clarity which is hard to come by with all the usual mental fog. Ultimately the best thing I do to cope is give myself plenty of TLC and treat myself as my own best friend – rather than my worst enemy.

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

I believe in making your mess your message and I’m constantly trying to make the most out of the bad situations. I think of my mental health conditions as a blessing disguised as a curse – on the surface it creates pain and suffering, but there’s always a deeper meaning and learning opportunity to grow from. I always tell myself that I’ve been given this life because I’m strong enough to live it and with this attitude it gives me a positive approach to any obstacle that life throws at me. Although I’m not necessarily proud of my problems, I am proud of the person I have become from all this. I’ve gained a stronger level of compassion and empathy as well as a genuine desire to help support and love others who are in need. Overall, I would say mental health has given me an opportunity to express myself fully and create something beautiful out of what others would see as a tragic end.

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

The advice I would give myself would be; ‘You’ve come too far to give up now.’ Life has thrown some tough situations your way but you’re still here, you survived it all and you’ll continue to overcome anything else in your path.

Instead of questioning ‘why me?’ you should be saying ‘try me’ because you are stronger than you think and capable of whatever you put your mind to. When you finally beat your mental health, you’ll become an incredible person that could only have been sculpted by the life you’ve lived. You still have a lot to learn, but keep thinking long term because it will all be worth it. You’ve got this.

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below and you may be featured on the blog! 

 

 

Automatic Negative Thoughts // The Power of Journaling

Since I was making up stories as a kindergartner, writing has always been my outlet. When I started therapy, my therapist began to realize just how essential it was to my life, and how it could be not only a form of expression, but emotional. Cathartic.

She suggested I buy a small journal just for my ANTs, which are Automatic Negative Thoughts.  These thoughts are cynical, irrational and come through our brains all by themselves. We experience them every minute of every day of our lives, and for the first time in a long while, I was taught how to combat them head on. Writing in this journal made me realize just how important thoughts are. They can either help or hurt you. If the irrational ones are left unnoticed, they can start to affect relationships, work, and your entire life. First, we need to notice them. If we catch them the moment they occur, we chip away at their power.

 

When a negative thought goes unchallenged, your mind believes it and your body reacts to it. 

 

For example, if I would walk into work, sit down, and my boss wouldn’t say good morning, my brain automatically thinks, she’s angry with me, or I’ve done something wrong. These are negative thoughts that need to be confronted with reality. Whenever thoughts like these would cross my mind, I would stop and write it in my ANT journal – didn’t matter where I was. I literally brought it everywhere. First date, out with friends, a concert – you name it. 

 

Here’s an example of the ANT form:

 

Step 1: Event – Write out the event that is associated with your thoughts and feelings. 

Step 2: ANT – Write out the Automatic Negative Thought.

A few examples of typical ANTs are: 

“You never listen to me.” 

“You don’t like me.”

“This situation isn’t going to work out. I know something bad will happen.”

“This is stupid.”

“He doesn’t want to talk to me.”

“I should have done better. I’m a failure.”

 

Step 3: Species – Identify the type of irrational thought.

Here are the different labels for ANTs: 

“Always or never” thinking: thinking in words like always, never, no one, every one, every time, everything

Focusing on the negative: only seeing the bad in a situation

Fortune telling: predicting the worst possible outcome in a situation

Mind reading: believing that you know what another person is thinking, even though they haven’t told you

Thinking with your feelings: believing negative feelings without ever questioning them

Guilt beatings: thinking in words like “should, must, ought or have to”

Labeling: attaching a negative label to yourself or to someone else

Personalization: innocuous events are taken to have personal meaning

Blame: blaming someone else for your own problems

 

Step 4: Kill the ANT – Talk back to the irrational thoughts. 

 

Now, here’s an example of a real-life ANT being written down and corrected. This is one from my very own ANT journal:

 

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How you think moment by moment matters. It plays a large role in how you feel, behave, and the way in which your life turns out. Negative thoughts can cause you to feel internal discomfort or pain, leading you to behave in ways that alienate others. Hopeful thoughts can influence positive behaviors and lead people to feel good about themselves and be more productive in the day to day.

Listen, I’m not saying that we should just snap our fingers and wash away all the negative thoughts because that’s just unrealistic. I’m saying that these automatic negative thoughts are completely irrational. The ones that seep into our minds and convince us we are failures, pathetic, and that everything is our fault – that no one wants us around, everyone thinks we are too much. Do they though? Is that reality? Nope, it’s not. It’s time to fight against that for a stronger way of thinking.

Honestly, at first I thought writing these thoughts down was a little dumb. I didn’t think it was helping me but a year and a half later – I don’t even need to write it down anymore to correct my thoughts, and that’s exactly what my therapist intended. Since I’ve written it down time after time, whenever I have one of these thoughts, I do these four steps in my head in a matter of seconds. It takes a lot of practice to get to that level, but it’s so worth it.

Whenever I noticed an ANT entering my mind, I trained myself to recognize it and write it down. When we write down our negative thoughts and talk back to them, we start to take away their power and gain control over our mood. Kill the ANT by feeding our emotional anteater. 

Whenever we need to be in control of our mind – times when we’re feeling anxious, depressed or frazzled – it’s essential to turn to something that works. I allowed these negative thoughts to control every mood I had, every friendship I was in, and basically every relationship. It’s time to stop giving these thoughts any more power. Don’t believe everything you hear, even in your own mind. 

 

 

 

Do you use the ANT journaling method? How does it work for you? 

 

 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Setting Healthy Boundaries

Going into today’s therapy session, I was really excited. Because of the long holiday weekend of 4th of July, it’s been roughly three weeks since I’ve had a session. While I handled my anger well during that time, I was itching to sit down and discuss all the different situations that had occurred since the last time we met.

I’ll be honest – I was a like a middle schooler handing in my well thought out essay in therapy. I was so proud of myself for the way I’ve set clear boundaries and removed triggers the past few weeks that I deserved a little praise.

When I told my therapist of all the things I experienced over the past few weeks and how I handled them on my own, she was more than proud – she was moved by my newfound ability to see a potential trigger and remove it before it became an issue for me.

Here’s a few examples:

A week or so ago, I found out that my ex-boyfriend has posted on social media for the first time since we broke up. I wrote about this in a previous blog post, but I’ll explain it again. My close friend called me to give me a heads up that he had posted, so I was very grateful I didn’t scroll through my feed on Instagram and have it pop up – instant trigger.

Turns out it was a photo of him settled into his new apartment. This triggered my anger – I was hurt. Hurt that he was “moving on” and doing exciting, fun things without me when in reality, that’s life. It moves on. He will have endless experiences in that new apartment that I will never be part of, because we aren’t in each others lives anymore. And that’s where I needed to rework my focus – shift the focus from him, and onto myself. What new experiences will I have? How do I feel? 

Because honestly, he doesn’t matter anymore. It’s not about him – it’s about me and how I react, how I handle my anxiety.

So, from this event I made the decision to unfollow him on all social media. I set a very clear boundary for myself. No more temptation to go “keep tabs” on what he’s doing, no more potential triggers when he posts something and I randomly see it. No more.

This is how I will move on, and stay there.

Another example of setting a healthy boundary for myself was about a week or so after my breakup. It was a random Saturday night and I was spending it alone at home. I got a text message from an old hookup – I say that because we never actually dated, just had fun – just saying hi. I hadn’t spoken to him in over a year, so I knew what his intentions were. I was so not in that place to have sex with no strings attached, and honestly I felt uncomfortable even talking to him about it, so I spoke up. I was upfront and direct with him – I appreciated the gesture but I’m not ready to be in that place. Being the very nice guy that he is, he was completely understanding and civil, but it’s so important to set these boundaries when we feel overwhelmed or that uncomfortableness sets in.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Just a year ago, I would never have had the ability to send a text like that, it would have sent me into a spiral of anxiety. I’m proud to know what I deserve and know my emotional boundaries. Could I have accepted his invitation that night? Absolutely. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I wasn’t ready – and that’s okay. 

In response to all this, my therapist said something that truly resonated with me:

“It’s okay to make mistakes, but we need not repeat negative patterns.”

Creating healthy boundaries is the key to managing my mental health, and keeping up with my triggers.

In addition to discussing my emotional boundaries, I also read my therapist a second letter that I wrote to my ex. This time, it was based in anger. While I have no intention to sending it to him, it’s important to put pen to paper for me when I’m overwhelmed with an emotion. It helps me to process that feeling, and move on from it in a healthy manner.

While I read the letter to my therapist, she noticed that I was starting to cry. She told me I could get angry and yell while reading it, but my knee jerk reaction was to be hurt. I still have trouble expressing anger publicly, but I’m proud of myself for getting through the entire letter. My therapist told me that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed because for me, this is new. It’s a new emotion to be expressing and it’s not always going to go my way. She also said:

“Don’t be afraid of your anger – it’s appropriate.”

She’s 100% right. I’m afraid since I haven’t been in this place of anger for as long as I have, that it will never fade. That’s my anxiety speaking – I will move on from this emotion. As long as I sit with it and acknowledge the lessons that come from the pain and the anger, I will move to the next stage.

 

 

Have you set some great emotional boundaries for yourself lately? Share them in the comments below! 

Learning To Be Alone // Tips on Battling Loneliness

Recently, I’ve had a few friends and followers ask me to share some tips or advice on battling loneliness and how to be alone. I’ve had coworkers and friends commend me on my healthy ability to spend multiple nights completely alone in my studio and while I appreciate the kind words, I truly believe that being alone should be second nature to us all – but sadly, it’s not. Not even for me.

It was only until recently that I’ve come to terms with being alone. I still struggle with it sometimes. It’s not a perfect science by any means. Growing up, I was raised to believe that if you were alone on a weekend, or a night where you could be out “having fun” with friends, you were sad. A loser. So, I’ve always had a hard time spending time with myself. I made excuses and avoided it by calling a friend to hang out instead, or going out and being miserable because I wasn’t listening to myself – I needed to be at home, alone.

Sitting with yourself – flaws and all – is incredibly difficult. But we must. We have to do this for ourselves, because in time, I’ve realized I prefer it. Once you cross the scary, oh my god, I’m so pathetic for being home alone on a Saturday night mindset, it becomes apparent that you enjoy being alone. I love hanging out with myself – I’m actually pretty fun. We all need to come to this realization that we need ourselves – not anyone else.

Here are a few tips that I’ve learned on being alone and battling loneliness:

 

Be Productive

I’ve learned that when I’m completely alone in my studio, being somewhat busy helps my mind to distract from any negative, anxious thoughts. Come up with a small checklist with tasks like: clean your room/space, wash the dishes, clean the bathroom, make my bed, go for a walk, make myself dinner, etc. These are very simple tasks, but once you hunker down and get them done, you’ll feel majorly accomplished and productive – plus, you’ll have a nice, clean space all to yourself, that’s always exciting!

 

Go Easy on Yourself

The act of being alone is really difficult for people who aren’t used to it. For myself, it took awhile for me to adjust and I actually didn’t even do it at first. In the very beginning, if you find yourself getting too anxious or even having a panic attack at the thought – call a friend to come over and be with you, or go to their house. Things like this don’t happen overnight, take it a day at a time. You’re not a failure for it, you’re just listening to yourself. The next time, you might be more able to accomplish being alone.

 

Alone vs. Lonely

Know the difference between these two crucial words. The act of being alone can be extremely freeing, and I’m even coming to learn, necessary for growth and self discovery. Being lonely can happen anywhere. You can be surrounded by all your “friends” or even a partner and feel utterly lonely. It’s like Rupi Kaur’s poem always says,

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A post shared by rupi kaur (@rupikaur_) on

 

When we get these intense feelings of being lonely, it’s usually always a sign we are in serious need of looking within. Of giving ourselves the right amount of attention. Sometimes, it takes a certain amount of pain and heartbreak to become self aware. To know when you need to be alone and when you want to go out with close friends and feel their company. There’s nothing wrong with wanting company and loved ones around – we are human that’s instinct. But, knowing the difference between healthy want and a need that calls for a closer look at your emotions and mental health is key.

 

Don’t Date 

Now, this may seem like a harsh statement, but there’s a reason for it. When you’re in the realm of feeling such intense loneliness, it’s a mistake to jump into the dating world. Most people use dating as an excuse not to sit with their feelings. It’s like the poet Kiana Azizian says,

 

I’m incredibly guilty of this. A little over a year ago, I was this person that jumped from Tinder to OkCupid to Bumble, scrolling and swiping for the next guy who could fill the lonely void I had. Did it work? Absolutely not.

It takes a certain amount of strength to reject the idea of dating and staying alone – by yourself. Making a choice to be single goes against every ideal that we as women are taught. Find a good man, fall in love, get married, raise a family. Well, what if all that isn’t what will make you happy right now? What if you need time alone? What if you need to fall in love with yourself instead?

It’s a difficult decision to make, but it’s one worth trying. Learning to be alone with yourself and going through the trials of online dating just doesn’t add up. In order to battle loneliness and successfully being alone – you need to actually be alone. This way, when the time does come – and it will come – for the right match to enter your life, you’ll be ready. You’ll know what you deserve because you’ve been giving it to yourself all this time.

I have a close friend who tells me that it’s essential to know the difference between wanting and needing someone in your life. When you’ve spent time on your own, getting to know and loving yourself – you will never need a person. You have you. You’ll want someone to share your life with, someone worthy of entering the wonderful world you’ve created and built for yourself, but you won’t need it for your own self worth.

 

 

Spend a night in with yourself – you might actually like it. 

 

Do you struggle with being alone? Share how you battle loneliness in the comments below. 

Self Care Sunday // Wisteria Fox

I’ve always been a believer in the beauty of a great bath. Soothing and relaxing, it can help to heal the stresses and anxiety of a bad day. That being said, I also don’t believe that throwing a bath bomb in the tub solves all your issues associated with mental illness. Self care – however you practice it – is just one part of the picture. Therapy, journaling, cognitive behavioral tools. All of these things together is how I battle my anxiety.

Suffering from anxiety and depression, Alyssa Vicari –  the woman behind Wisteria Fox – truly understands the importance of self care. Baths always had the ability to calm, relax, and escape Vicari away from the stressers in life, so she created beautiful bath products that could help distract and benefit her skin. Eventually, she began selling her products so others could have this escape as well.

Researching different brands that spread the important message of self care, I stumbled upon Vicari’s shop and got to speak with the woman herself. A kind, gentle soul with a passion for healing others, I was all too happy to purchase a box.

Not only does Vicari sell these wonderfully scented products – she hand makes them. Vegan and cruelty-free, all the products are completely natural, using SLSA, an alternative to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. But don’t worry, the bath bombs still foam and fizz to your heart’s desire. Derived from coconut and palm oils, they smell heavenly.

This month, Vicari unleashed a new idea: Self-care boxes. For June, the theme was, “Goodbye Negative Mind, Hello Positive Life.” Loaded with a potential mix of bath bombs, bubble bars, bath soaks, body scrubs/shimmer scrubs, the box also comes with tips and tricks for coping and dealing with mental health issues/anxiety/stress, handmade stickers, drawings, and quotes.

While my box was a little bit different than the others, here is what was inside!

Amber Sunset // Mind Over Matter Bath Bomb

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A soothing, salmon colored bath bomb, Mind Over Matter is scented with base notes of raspberry, cantaloupe, and watermelon, middle notes of jasmine and violet, and fresh top notes of grapefruit and kumquat.

To say the least, it’s a serious plethora of scent. Last night, I used this bath bomb and it made for an extremely calming, content experience. I finished up watching GLOW on Netflix, and just soaked in the tub, smelling like an array of wonderful scents, it was great.

As an added bonus, once your bath bomb is all fizzled out, there’s a Carnelian stone inside of it! While I’m not super informed about the healing benefits nor do I practice, I’m always up for learning new information!

Providing protection from negative emotions from others and within yourself, the Carnelian stone is a great guide to a renewed love of life, increases inner strength, and grounds energies to the present. I even received a little note in the box on tips and best practices for using the stone!

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Wild Spirit // Essential Oil Bath Bomb 

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Scented with lemongrass essential oil and topped with dried lavender buds, this bath bomb is the perfect recipe for a Saturday night in. Notes of eucalyptus and spearmint are included for the utmost of relaxation.

On top of the beautiful bath products, I also received two adorable tips and reminders for my mental health:

The first was this super cute ornament saying, Without rain, nothing grows. I just love it! I ended up hanging it on my cork board next to my bed, so I can see it when waking up and falling asleep at night.

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And lastly, there was a really creative activity in the box! I received a bunch of cut out, white paper butterflies with a note that told me to write a negative thought on the butterflies, place it under a thin layer of soil, water, and watch as that negative statement or word turns into something beautiful. What a wonderful message, I absolutely loved the idea and will be trying it out soon.

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I absolutely loved all the different products and activities in my Wisteria Fox Self Care box! It was so beautifully packaged – I would definitely consider ordering another one. It brought some excitement and healing to my day in a simple way. It’s so essential to practice self care and when a company – and its founder – are part of this wonderful mental health community, it seems like a no brainer.

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If you want to treat yourself and learn to practice more self care, order a Wisteria Fox Self Care box to help heal your heart and soul.

Visit https://wisteriafoxshop.com/ to shop the many soothing smells.

 

Do you have a specific routine for self care? Share your practices in the comments below. 

The Beauty of Loving Your Body // Izzi Marie

I don’t think there’s one person out there who doesn’t struggle with how they see their own body. We all see something we could change or alter, but in reality – imperfections are what make us unique, powerful, and beautiful.

Add on mental illness and the struggle gets even harder to manage. In another first for the blog, body positive blogger Izzi Marie discusses her own journey with self love and how she found the strength to fight the constant stigma associated with fat women.

Read Izzi’s powerful story of breaking through insecurity and self doubt below.

 

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Growing up I can’t tell you how many times I looked at another human and admired something about them; secretly wishing I carried those traits within myself. I would take beautiful elements of other people’s lives and somehow make them the darkest parts of mine. Why wasn’t I this? Why couldn’t I be that?

I allowed myself to hide behind black tinted windows, while supplying light for the sanity of everyone else. I’m not even sure that I meant to and it wasn’t until later I realized how toxic I had let my own mind become. Throughout my life I harbored thoughts of insecurity and self-doubt, tangled between knots of strength and sunshine.

I wish I could tell you the exact instant I stopped being that way. Unfortunately I can’t. Partially because some days I’m still that person and because one moment doesn’t make my story. What I can tell you is that every moment of self-love is a conscious choice.

When I was in third grade a girl (who shall not be named, even though I remember it vividly) called me fat on the playground. She was a year younger than me, but it was the first time I felt shamed for my body. I went home and cried to my mom, but she’s mom and did what most moms do. She told me I was beautiful, but for the first time in my life I didn’t believe it anymore. I always knew I was fat, but I never thought it was ugly. That little girl’s harsh words changed my life. If it hadn’t been her, I’m sure it would have been another. The point is I always saw my body differently after that. I saw myself in the eyes of others instead of my own.

The hatred you may have for yourself is something I believe we create at a very young age. It’s a bad habit that becomes engrained into little ticks that we turn a blind eye to. It exists in simple moments where you look in the mirror and turn away quickly. It lives in a snap instant when you compliment another while degrading yourself. It festers in small memories that aren’t cherished, because you were too busy worrying about the judgments of others.

Self-love is an active process. It is a choice, simply because it has to be. Bad habits are hard to break. So today and everyday forward I choose to love myself. I choose to love myself in the small victories, because you can’t reach four without two plus two. I choose to love myself in moments when it seems impossible, but I imagine my ten-year-old self standing next to me.  I choose to love myself, when the rest of the world chooses not to.

I now find beauty in the strength of fat women who show off their bodies in a time when visible belly outlines still disgust people.  I admire that a woman can be both fat and sexy, because she is a dynamic fearless leader, and not just because she wears a corset with her chest out. I continue to be constantly inspired and astonished that my insecurities are highlighted and made beautiful by women who have bodies just like mine.

You see it’s funny… I used to be consumed by this idea that I wasn’t or I couldn’t be. However, I already was. I quite literally had to start seeing my life from a different point of view. Once I saw my body archetype as attractive, it didn’t make sense that I could see that within myself. I spent a lifetime hating aspects of my fat body, using my hair as a security blanket and wearing hoodies in 100-degree heat. In that same space I saw fat girls owning their bodies. I saw fat women fighting in the distance to be loved and to love themselves. It was within that space that I discovered I wanted to fight too. I wanted to be for someone what these women were for me. It was within that space that I learned this very important lesson…

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Let another’s fight be your very own anchor. If you allow it, the thing you cherish in another, people will learn to treasure in you. Sometimes to win the fight you have to find strength in others and then discover how to see that strength within yourself. So from one insecure human to another, I beg you to stop turning light into darkness. Let light be light, no matter who flips the switch first.

XXX

Izzi Marie

 

Do you struggle with body image issues? Share your story in the comments below. 

Works in Progress // Alicia

In a very first for the blog, we discuss mental health surrounding addiction. Clean and sober for 11 years, Alicia went to rock bottom and back on her journey towards finding purpose, hope, and self love.

Abundant in light and compassion, she carries the mantra, “This too shall pass,” to get her through the worse bouts of emotion and anxiety. A truly genuine and beautiful soul, I’m proud to know Alicia – both through this blog and in my personal life.

Meet Alicia.

 

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Name: Alicia

Age: 43

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

After 11 years of being clean and sober, I am comfortable admitting that I am a recovering alcoholic and addict. Scientific studies have concluded that addiction is a form of mental illness and sometimes is precipitated by self-medicating for another form of mental illness. I drank and used drugs to get a break from depression and from feeling out of control. I needed to feel more confident around others and more at ease when anxiety was high. I came to learn after I opened up about my struggles that members of my family have been diagnosed and painfully lived through various forms of mental illness. So, it is in my DNA. 

When I look back at my childhood I see the same dysfunctional mental patterns that I came to recognize as an adult. Through the years, I’ve heard several times that addiction and substance abuse can stunt emotional growth. This is very true for me. It’s only in my 30’s that I learned to actually feel my feelings without a mask no matter how painful or joyous they may be. From the age of 10 I snuck alcohol at family parties, and by 13 I was drinking alone. As many high school and college kids do, friends and I had our share of experimenting with different drugs. In my 20’s I started using when my friends weren’t around, which eventually brought me to my rock bottom. 

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

I was born and raised on Long Island where my family and closest friends have remained. In 2006, I was living in Colorado far from those who knew me best. They got glimpses of how my life was crumbling apart by my 2 am phone calls fueled by drug-induced paranoia and fear while in desperate need for love. If my call went unanswered during sleeping hours I would get a concerned call back the next day. Whether I was feeling fine at that moment or coming down from a drug binge, I ignored those calls. I was selfish, only accepting love on my time and not giving any in return. As I look back, it’s apparent that I had no idea what love was, considering I had zero love for myself. I put myself in plenty of unsafe situations without any concern about detrimental consequences.  Life was meaningless. Without actually my saying the words, my two closest friends and parents read between the lines and knew I was subconsciously, desperately calling out for help. 

Because I couldn’t help myself, they made the first step. Without my knowledge, my parents and two closest friends back in New York contacted my Colorado-based psychiatrist and together researched various treatment facilities that could best heal my struggling mind. After they agreed on the best setting for me, I was presented with the opportunity to get the help I needed. Resistant to the idea at first because I was concerned about leaving my dog, my job and my comfort zone, I gave in when my dear friend Niki said, “I can’t support your unhappiness any more, I can only support your love and healing.”

In the days following, April 30, 2006, I flew from Colorado to a renowned in-patient addiction and trauma center in Arizona. I dedicated a month sequestered to 8-hour days of group and one-on-one therapy with others who walked many different paths of mental illness. A week was dedicated to inviting family members to attend in the healing process. I of course invited my Mom and Dad who flew in from New York. As the 30-days came to a close at this rehab center, it was apparent to the staff that this was just a stepping- stone to my recovery. Although I abstained from drinking and using during this time, I had not admitted that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol.

Again, I gave in to going to another treatment center. Still selfish, I said I would go with one condition — if I could bring my dog Bailey. Low and behold, the doctors found an all-women residential addiction treatment center in Costa Mesa, California, where my fur baby was welcomed. I was discouraged from flying back to Colorado so took a one-way flight from Arizona to California for my next attempt at self-love. My dog Bailey was delivered directly to the doorstep of my treatment home by none other than my parents. They flew from New York to Colorado to pick her up and collect my summer wardrobe, and then drove my car to California.

I spent the next four months living in a house with women from the ages of 18-20-something with the exception of myself  — age 31 at the time –and another woman who was 62.  Each had also come from various treatment centers from around the country, but we all shared a similar story. Together in the house we had group and one-on-one therapy with addiction specialists, and under close supervision, we also attended 12-step meetings in the neighborhood. By listening to women who shared their experience, strength and hope of recovery from alcoholism and addiction, I too came to believe that I was an alcoholic and addict, and there was hope for happiness.

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

Thankfully, I have not picked up a drink or drug since that flight to Arizona on April 30, 2006. I’ve learned that all emotions — sad, scared, happy and everything in between — are necessary to live a healthy and productive life. The thing about feelings that keeps me in check is that they all pass, that’s the beauty of being human. I am empowered knowing that I am completely dependent on myself for the way I perceive the world around me. I have control over how to handle people and situations by simply accepting the way I feel. Sometimes when it’s a crappy emotion I simply say  “I’m depressed and I love that!” Owning the emotion makes it less intimidating and reminds me that it won’t last forever. And when I’m struggling with any one feeling that may trigger irrational or overwhelming thoughts, I reach out to those few that I trust most to bring me back to reality and, better yet, share a laugh about it. The beauty of today is that I’m able to be present with friends and family who need the same love and understanding in return.

Another form of self-awareness that has helped quiet my mind and keeps me in the moment is exercising. I never listen to music when I run, hike or lift weights. I simply pay attention to my breath and focus on one motion at a time. The more I push myself to my physical limits, the more grounded I feel. The sense of accomplishment by the end of a workout boosts my mood. That’s what keeps me coming back for more. 

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you?

Self-love. I have a visual reminder of this, a vanity license plate that reads SELF(heart)19. Nineteen is a lucky number that I share with the two friends that started me on this journey of self-love. Seeing this everyday reminds me that having courage, strength and hope will get me through anything, and in turn I’ll be able to give abundantly to my friends, family and community.  It also keeps me accountable considering it’s often been a topic of conversation in parking lots. I’ve spent my sober years living in southern California and when I open up to those I’ve met along the way, the response is usually the same, “I can’t imagine you unhappy,” which is humbling. 

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness?

“This too shall pass,” is something I tell myself when I feel overwhelmed or out of control with any emotion. I’ll never be “recovered” from alcohol and drugs but I will always be “in recovery” because it’s a life-long practice and discipline. Therefore what may have helped me in the past may have evolved to something different today. My self-love is constantly evolving whether it’s in the form of meeting new friends, doing a different form of exercise, immersing myself in the community or picking up a new hobby. Life certainly never gets boring but rather more fulfilling because of where I came from and where I’m at now. I love that mental illness is part of my story because I’m constantly learning how to pick myself up and enjoy a life that I never thought possible.

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below and you may be featured on the blog! 

The Magic of Mindfulness // Get Outta Your Head

I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t always convinced on mindfulness. Before starting therapy, I didn’t think much of it and had judgements of people who practiced it, merely because it was different and I had no understanding of it. Things are much different now.

I was first introduced to the idea of meditation and mindfulness when I started attending therapy over a year ago. In my therapy, my therapist focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy to help with my anxiety. This means treating mental illnesses or anxieties with solutions, encouraging patients to challenge distorted realities and actively change destructive patterns of behavior. One of the solutions I was given was to practice more mindfulness.

I went searching for new ways to calm my mind and landed on Simple Habit – an app that gives you endless meditations for literally any possible life situation. There are several mindfulness apps on the big wide web, and it’s about finding the one that works best for you. This particular app just clicked with me and I started listening to the different meditations. It wasn’t until I was using it for a few months that I discovered one specific session that spoke to me most: Dealing With Failure. In that session, there was a meditation called “Shame” that had me repeat several mantras to myself, the very last being: I am good enough. Being good enough is a huge insecurity for me – and many others who suffer from mental illness – so being forced to say that to myself over and over was essential.

From that point on, this meditation became a lifesaver for my anxiety. The very first time I noticed that it saved me was when I had an anxiety attack at work. It was a particularly bad day, and I ended up having a terrible argument with a coworker where intense things were said, and that brought me right over the edge. I found myself in a fit of tears that I didn’t think I would recover from. It was then that I stopped, got up, and took a walk around the building. I took out my phone and started playing “Shame.” I repeated the words, brought myself back to reality, and went back inside.

Another example was more recently. I had a triggering conversation with a close friend where she called me out on my angry behavior since my breakup. I was defensive and hurt, so I escalated and personalized the situation. Once I got back to my car, I ended up having a full fledged anxiety attack in the parking lot. What did I do? Turned on Simple Habit. Just me and my mindfulness, blasting from the speakers of my car. To me, these aren’t just a few sentences strung together – it’s a form of magic.

With my newfound passion for mindfulness and all that it can bring, I’m honored to officially announce that I’m a brand ambassador for Outta! A Canadian based company with a message to get out of our heads and into our hearts, I just knew this brand was part of the sensitive, strong community that I’ve been so excited to know these past few months.

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Using their passion for fashion to show everyone that finding your purpose is possible, they are bringing mindfulness to the masses. I’m proud to be part of it. 

Even better? The products are all mindfully made too. Eco-friendly and they give back 10% of the proceeds to the mental health community.

If you need a daily reminder to get out of your head, use my code MINDFULERICA to get 10% of your purchase!

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What has mindfulness taught me?  Not just that I’m good enough, but that your thinking can be changed. Mental illness blurs my thoughts, making it hard to see reality  – meditation is just one way I arm my mind against anxiety.

A regular part of my self care routine now, mindfulness is not something you practice occasionally. You work at it every moment of every day. I have to play that “Shame” meditation over and over and over again until it becomes second nature to think:

I AM GOOD ENOUGH. 

 

 

 

How do you practice mindfulness with your mental illness?